wrestling / Columns

Pantoja’s Top 100 Matches Of 2022 (#40-31)

January 31, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
Bryan Danielson Jon Moxley AEW Grand Slam Dynamite Image Credit: AEW

40. War Games: Team Bloodline vs. Team Brawling Brutes – WWE Survivor Series

Image Credit: WWE

This started fine but things got interesting when it looked like Jimmy was going to enter next only for Sami to get sent in instead. The idea was to test Sami’s loyalty as he’d have to work with the one Bloodline member who he hasn’t bonded with. The story throughout surrounded Sami, where it was nearly fighting with KO or actually fighting with Jey. As Roman was the final man in, both teams stood across from each other in opposite rings. We got 50 Beats of Bodhran as all of the faces did it once which was cool. There was also Owens and Reigns reigniting their feud from 2020 including KO saying he wasn’t done with him. Owens had Roman pinned after a Popup Powerbomb but Sami stopped the referee from counting and ultimately hit Owens with a low blow. Sami added a Helluva Kick and allowed Jey to hit the splash on Owens for the win in 38:32. That was an anti-climactic finish though it worked with the story. Where the earlier War Games match had more wild spots, this had way better storytelling and I was hooked throughout. [****¼]

39. Bryan Danielson vs. Dax Harwood – AEW Dynamite 11/30/22

Image Credit: AEW

The best wrestler of all time vs. one of the best wrestlers of 2022. It’s one of my most anticipated matches of the year. Early on, Dax did a better job than you might expect at matching Danielson on the mat. They traded strikes as well before Danielson sent Dax into the crowd with a tope suicida heading into a commercial break. Returning, Dax started throwing German suplexes. I love that it has become a key part of his arsenal. The idea here was that even though Dax is a tag wrestler, he was able to match Danielson at every turn. Both men were exhausted after a strike exchange, further proving how hard-hitting this was. The finish saw both men trade inside cradle near falls until Danielson took one into the LeBelle Lock, causing a submission in 14:42. That was a great, old-school style match between two fantastic wrestlers and it was everything I could’ve wanted. [****¼]

38. Matt Riddle vs. Seth Rollins – WWE Clash at the Castle

Image Credit: WWE

Seth rocked some Elton John-style gear and I loved it. Despite the goofy entrances, they went right at it at the bell as they should’ve given the nature of the feud. They kept up that pace for the most part. Even with Riddle doing something like a rana, it was only to set up a chokehold as he wanted to really make Seth hurt. Seth responded with stuff like a powerbomb into the guardrail. Riddle made sure that his kicks had more snap to them than usual, adding a bit extra to everything. The Bro 2 Sleep followed by knee strikes was pretty great for a near fall as well. I loved Seth barely surviving the triangle choke and turning it into his own Bro Derek for two. More mind games from someone who is great at it. They kept surviving big blows thrown at one another like the Pedigree, which got a great reaction from the crowd. Seth went into Orton offense with the hanging DDT and then wasted time pounding the mat like Orton for an RKO, allowing Riddle to catch him in a choke and kick his ass. Riddle even tried to use a chair but Seth avoided it and delivered the Curb Stomp as he slid back in the ring. Seth added a Bret’s rope Curb Stomp to win in 17:20. I loved that finish as Seth used Riddle’s own aggression against him. An outstanding match from start to finish. [****¼]

37. Jon Moxley vs. Wheeler Yuta – AEW Rampage 4/8/22

Image Credit: AEW

I remember not being a fan of Wheeler Yuta during his run with the Best Friends. He always felt like the lamest part of the team and I never thought I’d really enjoy him. That changed with the Blackpool Combat Club storyline. This match was the biggest turning point. He got a chance to face AEW’s top star and he more than held his own for an incredible 12:39. Despite getting busted open badly, Yuta refused to give up and he proved to Moxley, Bryan Danielson, and William Regal that he belonged with them, which is not easy to do. This is the kind of story that I love in wrestling. The young gun proves themselves against a major star and this is one of the best instances of it. The sight of a bloodied Yuta standing toe to toe with Moxley is unforgettable. He survived a lot, including the Paradigm Shift in the case of a finisher kickout that worked. He also applied his own Bulldog Choke in a great twist of fate. Moxley still put him down with another Paradigm Shift and Bulldog Choke but Yuta earned his spot in the Blackpool Combat Club with this performance. [****¼]

36. WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch [c] vs. Bianca Belair – WWE WrestleMania 38 Night One

Image Credit: WWE

I was one of those people who questioned Bianca losing in 26 seconds last year though Bianca’s redemption made it worth it. Their PPV match last year was good but this was lightyears better. You could tell they were saving some really cool shit for here. They teased the SummerSlam finish early on but Bianca had it scouted and got herself going. She and Becky had some fantastic exchanges and close calls throughout where you legitimately believed Becky would retain. Seeing Bianca do a Bret’s rope 450 splash was impressive as hell. Bianca took a shot to the face on a Becky attempt of a Molly Go Round that looked rough. I liked the closing stretch with the Glam Slam counter, as well as Bianca doing the Dis-Arm-Her. The actual finishing sequence was fantastic. It wrapped with a KOD, making Bianca the first person to beat Becky for the title in THREE YEARS. It went 19:03 and was a tremendous piece of business. Great wrestling and Bianca was cemented as THE GIRL who feels like the division’s biggest star and that’s including Charlotte and Ronda. [****¼]

35. Dax Harwood vs. Will Ospreay – AEW Road Rager

Image Credit: AEW

One of the best wrestlers of 2022 against the IWGP US Champion. I loved how hard hitting this was at the start. Will bulking up has improved his striking but Dax was LAYING into him at points. The Shotgun Dropkick into the steps before the break looked fantastic as well. Will held serve through the break but upon returning, Dax reeled off FIVE German suplexes. HE IS SO GODDAMN GOOD. THE RELEASE GERMAN AFTER WAS EVEN BETTER. They continued at a wild pace with close calls and they made me believe Dax would win even though we all knew he wouldn’t. Dax survived everything Will threw at him, including the Oscutter. Alas, he couldn’t get up from the Hidden Blade, ending this in 13:46. I’m going to say it again but Will had a fantastic match because he stayed in that 12-18 minute range. When he goes balls to the wall, it works in a way that having 20+ minute matches rarely does. Dax also had one of the best years of anyone. [****¼]

34. Cody Rhodes vs. Seth Rollins – WWE WrestleMania 38 Night One

Image Credit: WWE

Everyone knew Seth Rollins’ mystery opponent would be Cody Rhodes but the moment was still pretty special to experience. I’m a guy who liked Cody a lot for the most part and this was one of his best singles matches. These two traded some interesting stuff early on and we even got to see Cody do a Stardust taunt. As this progressed, it built and built to bigger stuff, with each guy surviving big offense. I don’t like many finisher kickouts but thankfully, this was more just guys kicking out of signature moves like Cody’s moonsault and a Pedigree. Seth survived a Cross Rhodes but that’s it that I can remember. Seth’s reverse superplex into a Curtain Call was one of the coolest spots of the night. In the end, Cody hit two Cross Rhodes, a series of Dusty-inspired strikes, and a third Cross Rhodes to win after 21:34. Fantastic wrestling and for at least one night, Cody feels like a big deal. [****¼]

33. IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament Finals: KAIRI vs. Mayu Iwatani – NJPW/Stardom Historic X-Over

Image Credit: NJPW

KAIRI was a pillar of Stardom but obviously left to WWE for a while. Iwatani has held down the fort as a staple and top star for the past decade or so. Mayu also beat KAIRI for the World of Stardom Title before she departed to WWE. That helped give this a big fight feel. You could tell this was going to get time given how they started with a slow feeling out process. It made sense within the story of the match though as this was important and neither wanted to give ground to the other. I appreciated commentary noting that Mayu had issues with how KAIRI left the company for WWE. It added to whenever she threw out a stiff shot or something like that. KAIRI would level her with backfists and such but Mayu gave her nothing, even laughing in her face afterward. It’s like she was defiant to the end and didn’t want KAIRI to know that she was hurting. Mayu put a target on KAIRI’s arm to slow those down and possibly prevent the big elbow drop. As this neared the third act, both women started throwing bigger offensive moves like suplexes and frog splashes. On a half Tiger Suplex, KAIRI’s arm was too damaged to hook it for a pin, which may have cost her. Both women came close late, with a great near fall seeing KAIRI get her feet on the ropes to break a Dragon Suplex pin. KAIRI followed that with another back fist and the big elbow to win in 25:28. The epic main event that I wanted. They kept building to something bigger and added layers to almost everything they did before culminating in exciting fashion. [****¼]

32. AEW Trios Championship: Death Triangle [c] vs. The Elite – AEW Full Gear

Image Credit: AEW

It’s great to see Kenny and the Bucks back. The Elite came out to “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas, which is awesome. The PAC/Omega exchange was sick, while the Bucks and Lucha Brothers did the fast paced stuff they’re known for. Those teams have wrestled so much that they could have a good match in their sleep. Look, I’m not going into detail about the spots because there were so many ridiculous ones. It lacked the storytelling level of the All Out trios tag but was ripe with the absurd spots you’ve come to expect from these six. The Black Arrow into the Brutalizer would’ve been a sweet finish but this kept going. The story aspect came into play when Fénix declined using the bell hammer PAC wanted him to use. That allowed Omega to hit the V-Trigger and Tiger Driver ’98 for a legit near fall. Things got dire for the champs and PAC gave Fénix the hammer once more. He used it to escape the One Winged Angel and pin Kenny after 18:42. Another great match though not on the level of the one from the last PPV since the storytelling aspects weren’t nearly as good. [****¼]

31. AEW Grand Slam Tournament Of Champions Finals: Bryan Danielson vs. Jon Moxley – AEW Grand Slam Dynamite

Image Credit: AEW

I loved that this started with action that was crisp, intense, and made sense. Danielson lit up Moxley with chops and kicks like nobody else. They kept that up through the break, doing exactly the kind of wrestling that I love. Plus, Danielson did the “I HAVE TIL 5” after the break. The back half of this 19:32 match brought the injured knee back into play. Danielson hurt it against Jericho the week prior. The Busaiku Knee near fall even got a reaction from MJF. See, that’s the time to do the shocked near fall face. Danielson also survived the Death Rider. They continued to go at it until they went to the aisle and Moxley hit the Death Rider there. Danielson rolled down and into the ring for a near fall where Moxley then put on the Bulldog Choke. Danielson attempted to break it with the Survivor Series ‘96/WrestleMania 8 finish but Moxley kept hold and won via submission. I think that was a step below their PPV match since the outcome seemed obvious by the MJF/Moxley build in recent weeks. Still, another tremendous match from the best of all time and the guy having the best 2022. [****¼]